Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Great Debate Returns: Women in CS

I know I promised an early post tonight, but I ended up getting caught up in other stuff. I'm sure you'll learn to forgive me in time. Anyway, I talked about this way back when, but it's definitely worth bringing up again. One of the biggest things in CS right now, across the nation, is the concern that not enough women are entering Computer Science nowadays. I think people totally underestimate this problem as a natural imbalance. Without a diversity of perspectives in this field, it will suffer greatly. When everyone in a discipline is like-minded, there's no one to break the mold and do great things or change the way we see the world. The less women we have the less chances we have of finding a brilliant female perspective that instigates something really cool. That's why programs like Girlstart are so important; we risk losing innovation that could spur other advances. So what's with girls nowadays? I think the biggest thing, honestly, is the whole nerd stigma. The dot-com bust and outsourcing are still over-inflated, popular concerns, but that affects men just as much as women. In reality, I think that there's this fear of being a code monkey, and people don't realize that there's so much more to this field than that, and so many more possibilities. Not only that, but the stuff you can create with computers can become so revolutionary without requiring a lot of money; it's incredible. Anyway, it's a very male-dominated field, and that can be intimidated. The fear of being like the stereotypical programmer can be debilitating, but I think programs across the nation are working hard at that. Unfortunately, I do not buy UTCS's commitment to this. Yeah, they do eagerly support WICS's projects, but are they actively trying to correct these stigmas? The solution isn't to make it easier to get in, it's to make it easier to get passionate about computing, and then everything else will just fall in place. Without that desire, getting into the program is meaningless, because you won't stay.

I've missed a ridiculous amount of news. Let's start with the Google stuff: it's confirmed that Google is, in fact, developing a Powerpoint clone for their own online office suite (so far, just documents and spreadsheets). They acquired Tonic to expedite this process, but I have no idea what their existing product(s) look like, so we'll just have to wait for a good old-fashioned Google beta release to learn more. Oh, and rumors are back about Taiwanese manufacturers getting orders for Google Phones, but I don't take this as a reliable source. I should try to tap connections at TI to see if that part of the story has any validity.

Remember my link yesterday to Better Gmail, the sweet Firefox add-on? I've been using it since then and it's so freaking cool. Anyway, Lifehacker put up a video to show you a little more of how to be efficient with Gmail, as well as more add-ons. Better Gmail is still the best one though. And remember, always use https in your URL to access Gmail.

Here's something fun: a bunch of pictures of nerd tattoos. I'm surprised that there were so many video game references and so few references to Star Wars (none to Lord of the Rings). I would've preferred more coding ones (how about showing the Oracle machine from reduction proofs or something?). Anyway, for some reason, I liked this one best (no, not because it's a female butt, I know at least one person with a much better ass ;):

I think this is pretty funny, too: Microsoft only sold 244 legal copies of Vista in China in the first two weeks of its release. That doesn't near cover the millions they spent on advertising there, and it's all because of how ridiculous the infamous black market is there. I wonder what would happen if Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) totally disabled illegitimate copies of Vista? Would sales go up in China, or would they not upgrade, or would they all get Linux?

The IRS is applying pressure to have online auction sites disclose the identities of its users so that their incomes from such sales can be accounted for. Aside from the obvious privacy concerns, this really will hurt the little guys who won't get many users if they have to disclose that kind of information. This will create a monopoly for the big boys, namely, eBay. Is it really worth the extra tax money to do that? I'd like to see some hard facts on this before they move forward with such action.

No doubt in an effort to be hip and trendy, you'll soon be able to purchase episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report through Xbox Live. No word on how much it will cost, but I wonder how much money this will yield. If it can only be watched via an Xbox, then that's still kind of flawed and won't help them much. Am I understanding it correctly? Please correct me if these downloads from Xbox Live can be transferred to your PC, I just never heard of such a think.

Last thing for techie news: Will Ferrel and Adam McKay have teamed up again, but this time to create a site called Funny or Die. I think the title is dumb, but the bare bones site is actually based on a good idea: only keep videos that people like. Only videos with a certain amount of votes stay on the site, and the rest go into a graveyard of videos that must be voted up intensely to return. That landlord video is really hilarious, by the way, so be sure to click through (NSFW warning though).

We have news of production beginning on a couple of films. The new Indiana Jones flick will apparently start filming on June 16, and it looks like The Dark Knight started a couple of days ago. We know this because we have photographic evidence of the bank that will apparently be robbed by the Joker. I never say this, but it really does sounds more and more like this movie will be a wet dream for lots of Batman fanatics.

Yahoo Movies has a trailer for Balls of Furym featuring Christopher Walken and Maggie Q, but I didn't laugh once during the whole thing. It looks like they're relying too much on low brow humor, and it just kind of runs in the wrong direction with an otherwise humorous premise. Too bad, I really love Christopher Walken usually, but he's made bad choices in films more recently.

They also have a clip from 28 Weeks Later, and it's genuinely a bit scary, so be forewarned. I really do hope that this movie follows the footsteps of its predecessor to be more than the standard surprise-scare horror movie.

Now, for a Wednesday Mind Hump:

1. What do you do when you need a time out from all of your daily worries and activities?
Besides checking e-mail and webcomics, I think of when I'll next see a certain someone who makes me feel happy no matter what.

2. What celebrity needs to take a time out in the corner for naughty behavior?
Probably Tom Cruise, but he already gets enough ridicule so I'm not really sure. Never gave much thought to this.

3. What do you wish you could spend more time doing?
Besides spending it with a certain someone? Probably practicing guitar. I feel like I've been losing the talent I once had. I still have that zeal, just not enough time to invest in it anymore.

Oh, and don't expect a post tomorrow night. I'll try, but it's not likely.


Wil said...

I'm with you on TC.

I suspect the fact that eBay is responsible for some 5 billion in sales might account for the IRS's zeal -- they're owed at least 28% of that, minus lawful deductions.

Have a good'un.

JennYfer said...

Dude, I'm taking racquetball next semester.

It's going to be totally awesome!